Sonam Rayani Merchant – Nutrition and Diet Consultant, Founder of Jatropha Wellness & True Love Project
Sonam is a Nutrition and Diet consultant for 10 years now. She is the founder of her nutrition consultancy firm called “Jatropha Wellness By Sonam ” which aims to help people improve their health by eating well-balanced food. She aspires to give personalized nutrition plans and no short-term fad diets. She recently did a course in Translational Nutrigenetics from ION where she studied the impact that food has on genes and suggest accordingly which is a very recent research and is followed in a majority of developed countries.
Sonam founded the True Love Project in February 2016. Through this project, she aims to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. She considers herself as merely a medium between well-wishers and beneficiaries.
Q. Brief introduction about you as a Nutritionist.
A. Well, I work as a Nutrition and Diet consultant out of the passion for bringing about positive changes in people. I don’t really look at it as a business. As a field it is upcoming and one has to constantly upgrade oneself to be able to give the best service to the patients. To be level headed in this field is very important as there is a lot of contradictory information floating around and what one applies is vital.
Q. How do you manage to stand better and unique in terms of competition?
A. I feel that this word “competition” is negative. As a diet advisors, we need to realize that our ultimate aim is to help people eat better and increase their nutritional status, we should ideally never be at loggerheads or in cut-throat competition with fellow members and in fact realize that we are one big community. It is often this drive to be better than others that gives confusing messages to the public at large. We have often seen what one dietitian says the other dismisses. While the difference of opinion is fine, what we see happening around is not helping the public at large and they blindly follow the person whose voice is the loudest and may miss important factors.
For me what is important and probably the USP of my Nutrition advice is that I aim to give personalized plans to every patient keeping in mind their routine and schedule. In order to do this we study the anthropometry of the person like height, weight, BMI, waist circumference etc, we see blood reports, clinical symptoms, and current dietary practices. That makes it ABCD. To this, I have upgraded myself and added the G factor which is studying the person’s genetic makeup and predisposition and suggesting a very personalized nutrition approach. I also encourage my patients to send daily food recalls which helps me to know exactly what is happening and for them to understand better what I have explained. If all of us don’t look at the competition around but instead realize that we are our own competition and therefore strive to improve ourselves we will have a fantastic community of food planners.
Q. What you will suggest today’s generation to stay fit and healthy?
A. Few suggestions from me are:
- Eat at least 1 meal with the family, if not more, to enjoy home cooked warm food, away from the TV or IPAD or mobile phones.
- Stay away from boxed foods and snacks and reach out for fruit, nuts in between main meals and not reach out for a biscuit full of refined flour.
- Stay hydrated and remind them that water is the best drink. That buttermilk, nimbu pani with a dash of jaggery, coconut water and jaljeera are their friends.
- Stay active for at least 60 to 90 minutes in a day. Whoever does desk job please get up from yr chair and walk around for 5 minutes every hour.
- If you have little children at home then be good role models for the children. If you have poor eating habits and dependence on junk, factory made “food like” products then so will they.
- Treat yourself to whatever you want to eat once every week but make sure you have this cheat meal in a calculated way.
- Stay in touch with Drs and nutrition experts for personalized advice and don’t blindly follow what you read and see on social media. ONE SIZE does not fit all.
- Lastly, I would tell them to stay happy and content and value their home-cooked meals. Not everyone has the privilege of eating home cooked meals.
Q. How important you think is to deal with Mental Health as compared to Physical health and fitness?
A. I think mental health is much more important. You can have the best diet consultant and a fabulous gym trainer but if you are not mentally at peace, sound, and content, you will never be able to follow anything consistently.
If you have a cold or a cough or fever you go to the doctor, in the same way, if you have issues with mental health you should seek professional help and not neglect it. We see several celebrities now speaking about the mental health issues they face. In the same way, when we see our family or friends go through some mental health issue we should support them to seek help instead of mocking them which is something I have commonly seen.
Q. Sonam, how did the idea behind True Love come to your mind? What is True Love Project?
A. My mother’s birthday was in the last week of January and she told me to take a snack for the children of an orphanage and give it to them. So I went with my son. The person at the desk was busy on the phone. So I kept the snacks and I don’t know what prompted me to ask the concerned person if they needed anything else. And he pointed to a long list of ration on the board. I took a picture and posted it on social media thinking that I would try and manage to collect the ration and go ahead. Within 30 minutes of posting that list on Facebook, I had commitments for all of the ration. Next week I went to give all the ration and then I got talking with the concerned person only to realize that if I am to make a difference in the life of the children there this project has to be a consistent effort and not a 1-time thing. So the project has grown to assist 3 centers for children, 2 for seniors and 1 for women.
What started with just giving of ration has extended to conducting yearly health checks, eye check-ups, providing necessary medicines, celebrating birthdays of children and seniors, arranging for fees for their education’s, providing new school shoes, uniforms, books, bedsheets, towels and so on. We also arrange entertainment programs for them, have therapy dogs come in to interact with them, encourage well-wishers to provide special meals and celebrating their birthdays with the less fortunate. We have a long way to go.
Q. How can ordinary middle-class people contribute to these NGOs or other NGOs, your suggestions on this.
A. No one is ordinary. We are all special in our own way. 1 kg of rice costs 33 Rs.H ow easy it would be for anyone who has kindness in their heart to come forward and help. You have time, go and play with the children, or have a nice chat with seniors. Everything is possible if you have the intention.
Q. Your message to the world.
A. My message to the world is to share what you have, whether its knowledge, expertise, resources or even a smile. Value what you have, thank the almighty and share and share and share.
So, here was a small chat kind of interview with celebrity-dietician Sonam Rayani Merchant. She considers herself as a very common person. But what we concluded about her is that Sonam Rayani Merchant is a Woman with a golden heart who serves humanity in her own special way through her True Love Project.